A 90th minute equaliser from Bailey Wright denied MK Dons the opportunity to crash the party at Deepdale as Preston North End left it late to earn a 1-1 draw.
Preston were hosting their 'biggest party' in honour of the 90th birthday of club legend Sir Tom Finney, but the Dons thought the champagne moment had come from a superb Darren Potter goal in the first-half.
Potter netted only his third goal of the season - finishing a great move courtesy of a delicious cross from Jay O'Shea - and looked set to have sealed all three points for the Dons. However, Preston had other plans and it was a last-minute header from Wright that reduced the Dons' cushion in the play-offs to five points.
Preston, buoyant by the razzmatazz prior to kick-off, spent the best part of the opening five minutes in the Dons' final third but with little success as only a cross into the box from right produced the easiest of collections from David Martin.
The initial burst of energy from Preston burnt away as the Dons began to enforce their style of play on the Lilywhites with Daniel Powell looking to make the most of his pace to get beyond Paul Parry who at times looked perplexed by the threat down the flank.
Rather uncharacteristically both Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson were guilty of giving the ball away in midfield but fortunately for the Dons; Preston's passing also seemed to be astray as they failed to cut through the back four.
When Nicky Hunt tried to release his team on the attack with a cross-field diagonal ball he handed possession straight to Powell and the front man once again put his head down and ran with the ball. A heavy touch though resulted in him losing full control of the ball as Parry slid in for a challenge which resulted in him needing treatment.
To Preston's credit when the Dons did break forward they were faced with the task of cracking through two banks of four to get a sight at goal, which would have explained a wild and frustrated shot flying from Jay O'Shea's boot and into the stands.
Iain Hume was at the heart of most of Preston's positive forward play as he held the ball well and was the main creator for the home side. The Dons had a lucky escape when a cross from the left of the box failed to get the best touch from Chris Holroyd as he flashed a header across the six-yard box.
The Dons' passing game caused Preston some problems and there was little they could do when a wonderful inch-perfect cross from O'Shea was played into a central area. Smith's dummied run caught out the Lilywhites as Potter ghosted into the free space to take control and apply a great chipped-finish over Thorsten Stuckmann to give the visitors the lead.
Ten minutes before the break the crossbar came to the Dons' rescue to deny Ehmer's thumping header on Danny Mayor's corner, although Adam Chicksen was also providing cover on the post.
Preston had another chance to test David Martin when Stuckmann, who looked to have possibly taken the ball out of play without being spotted by the officials, sent a long route-one punt down field to Holroyd to collect on the right wing. The forward's cross was played into the box with pace but Martin managed to smother the ball before Hume could turn the ball home.
When play resumed after the break the Dons were faced with a Preston side who looked eager to return to level terms at the earliest opportunity and a fine run by Mayor almost presented them with the first chance. The midfielder when on a mazy run, beating three Dons players, before shifting the ball to Paul Coutts whose close-range shot was blocked by the face of MacKenzie.
The Scottish defender was caught in the action again when Mayor's cross found Holroyd inside six-yards but as he tried a fancy flick past Martin it was MacKenzie who made a telling block.
With Preston threatening to come back into proceedings the Dons needed to find a second goal to make themselves more comfortable in the game. With that in mind Robinson called onJabo Ibehre to enter the action to bolster the forward line in place of Chadwick.
As the home side, it was natural that Preston would have a spell of dominance in the game, yet their chances to truly test the Dons were few and far between. At the other end of the pitch a great dinked pass over the Preston defence sent Smith on his way but the shot was deflected for a corner.
From the resulting O'Shea corner Lewington was found unmarked at the far post and Stuckmann was left out of sorts but the skipper sent his header wide of the post. It could have been a costly miss for the Dons when Preston found the space for Coutts to drill a fierce effort from 20-yards which was well stopped by Martin.
Unfortunately the Dons switched off at the most important moment when in the 90th minute they conceded a free-kick 20-yards out and Preston pushed every man forward including the keeper. Mayor's delivery was curled into the box to find Wright, and the defender's thumping header flew into the back of the net.
Preston North End: Stuckmann, Robertson, Hume, Coutts, Mayor, Parry, Wright, Ehmer (Proctor 70), Holroyd, Procter (c) (Aneke 85), Hunt (Miller 80).
Subs not used: Arestidou, Cummins.
Goal: Wright 90
MK Dons: Martin; Chicksen, Williams, MacKenzie, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; O'Shea (Slane 82), Chadwick (Ibehre 54), Powell; Smith (MacDonald 76).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan.
Booked: Chicksen, Chadwick
Goal: Potter 26